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`Roll and carry TV screens

Prototype of Plastic transistor-based display developed by Philips. (Inset) A black and white video image on the display (Philips Research: AP)

IMAGINE A flexible television or computer screen that you can view, holding it like a newspaper, while on a bus then folding it, to carry in your pocket. Dream of technologists to create a material combining the qualities of paper lightness and flexibility with the instantly refreshed capability of a video monitor, may soon become reality: Scientists at the Netherlands-based research laboratories of TV and electronics giant, Philips, have announced a breakthrough in the transnational race to fabricate a 'roll and carry' television screen.

The Philips team has given details of their work in a paper that appears in the journal NatureThey have succeeded in fabricating a ``polymer dispersed liquid crystal display ''(PDLCD) panel of size 3.5 cms x 3.5 cms, where the display elements are driven by plastic transistors rather than the conventional silicon devices. This will give the display screen the flexible qualities of the plastic and allow it to be folded or rolled. One of the Philips researchers, Mr Edzer Huitema, told the Associated Press that the biggest thing they have accomplished is to integrate no less than 4096 separate plastic transistors on the 10 square centimeter display. The resulting matrix can be refreshed at around 50 times a second _ making it fast enough for video and television signals.

For over one year now, scientists in Europe and the U.S. have been trying to fabricate commercially viable ``electronic paper'' _ a pliable plastic surface coated with metal oxides, which can be used to download text and pictures from the Internet. The images remain frozen on the e-paper, which can be also `wiped' clean and reused. The work done at ``E-Ink'' a Philips subsidiary and ``Cyricon Media'', funded by the Xerox Corporation, has excited media enterprises who anticipate the day when customers can download the day's newspaper on such e-paper and refresh the pages whenever they feel like it, through an Internet connection.

But the announcement from Philips, goes one step ahead, by extending the technique to video rather than still pictures. They were able to display black and white video pictures with 256 shades of grey, in a 64 pixel by 64 pixel format, on their plastic LCD screen.

``The World has moved closer to real electronic paper'', E- Ink's Vice President Mr Russel Wilcox, commenting on the Philips claim, said.

Anand Parthasarathy

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